The First Is Last . . . Again

In about two years from now, the Ford Mustang will be the last new car of its type still on the market – a fitting thing, given it was the first car of its type to come onto the market back in 1964. But it’s a sad communion – because it represents an end rather than a beginning.

One as unnatural as Joe Biden’s hairline.

The rivals whose existence the original 1964 Mustang prompted into existence – Chevy’s Camaro and the Dodge Challenger – are on their way out, again. Not because they aren’t selling but rather because forces conspire to make it impossible to sell them.

The same force that did it last time.

A force whose power always waxes and which has become irresistible.

It was possible, for awhile, to make due. To bob and to weave. To end-run.

Not anymore.

It’s all over, now. Electrification is unanswerable. It is a juggernaut of death rolling over the landscape. No one really wants it – but we’re all going to have it.

Courtesy of the force.

So, perhaps some fond memories are in order, first.

When the ’64 Mustang made its debut, there was no such thing as what subsequently became known as a “pony car.” As distinct from the muscle car, a species of performance car archetyped by the 1964 Pontiac GTO.

1964 was a great year for the car – and those who loved them.

The force was weak, then. Just the background noise made by misshapen homunculi such as Ralph Nader and his Center for Auto Saaaaafety.  Americans weren’t much interested in such bed-wettery, then. But they made a mistake in not seeing the threat of the bed-wetters.

But it was hard to see that, back in ’64. The year of the pony car, which differed from a muscle car chiefly in that it could be muscular – for example, the 289 Hi Po and GT350 versions of the early Mustang – but it didn’t have to be. While the muscle car could not be sporty in the way the pony car was. Muscle cars were hulking, heavy things – generally based on existing two-door sedans like the Tempest (GTO). A big engine was fitted, along with various complementary performance upgrades and cosmetic embellishments while pony cars like the Mustang – and subsequently, Camaro and its cousin, the Pontiac Firebird – were smaller cars and built on dedicated platforms that may have shared bits and pieces with other cars but weren’t just hopped-up versions of an existing car.

The Mustang was related to the Falcon, for instance. But it wasn’t a Falcon with a hot engine. It didn’t even come standard with a hot engine, another point of difference between a pony car and a muscle car, which always did because if it didn’t then it wasn’t a muscle car.

Pontiac never sold the GTO with anything less than a V8 engine. No muscle car ever came without one.

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